The TCF Rahbar Program


Dear Awesome Readers of this Blog,

 

Can you spare just three (3) hours on a Saturday to become a friend and mentor under-privileged boys and girls in Pakistan?

In the time it takes to play a cricket match, watch a movie or attend a lunch/dinner, you can do something amazingly  meaningful.

 

If you can spare this time, then I invite you to volunteer for the October session of the TCF Rahbar Program, where you will mentor secondary school students about life, studies, goals, planning, careers etc.

 

This is a seven (7) week volunteer program conducted by The Citizens Foundation – TCF ( Face book Page here ). 

You don’t have to commit yourself for every day of these weeks, but turn up at an allocated Secondary School every Saturday from 9 am to 12 pm. So basically, you commit only 7 Saturdays.

 

Students of the these schools are just as beautiful and intelligent as your own kids, brothers, sisters and little cousins. All they need is some guidance and motivation.

 

I promise you the greatest volunteer experience of your life if you do decide to make a difference in the life of a precious child.

 

To participate, all you have to do is to fill this Form or simply drop an email to rahbar@tcf.org.pk

 

The Program takes place in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Qasba, Gujrat, and Khushab & Quetta in Pakistan. So if you know of friends, family or acquaintances in these areas, please let them know of this Program as well.

 

Pakistan is facing an education emergency and it is time to take things in our own hands.

 

 

Best, 

S.

ps. i leave you with some pictures taken by me during my own volunteering experiences in different TCF Schools. And, no, i am not in any of these pictures. ;)

Why are we here?


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“We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.

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According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, ‘There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish,’ is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves. “

: Annie Dillard ( Pulitzer prize winner).

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 Disclaimer: I do not own or claim to own any rights to these pictures. These pictures were taken from a random image search online.

Humaira Bachal – The light of Moach Goth, Karachi.


Let me introduce you to twenty two year old Humaira Bachal. The first time I saw her was in the Heroes Session of the Rahbar Program of the Citizens Foundation (“TCF”). Rahbar is a program which focuses on the development of students studying in TCF schools as responsible individuals and productive members of society. In this program individuals from all walks of life spend time with eight and ninth graders studying in various schools in the cities, during the eight weeks of the Rahbar Program. One of the sessions of the program is the, “Hero Speaker” session, where guest speakers talk about their life struggles, with particular focus on how these individuals fought all challenges and succeeded in the face of adversity. In this particular session, Humaira Bachal was the Hero Speaker for the students of the TCF Sumar Goth School.

Dressed in black shalwar kameez and with a red shawl draped over her head, her face was calm and composed, belying the story of her struggle that she would soon unfurl open us.  She was the second Hero Speaker for the day and I waited patiently with baited breath for the moment she would speak. And when that moment finally arrived, we were all humbled to dust and she was elevated in our eyes to such a large extent, that we could have made her our queen.

This is her story.

Humaira Bachal moved to the Moach Goth squatter settlement in Karachi City, when her village and her home were destroyed by floods in interior Sindh. Her mother, Zainab Bibi at that time took the bold step of convincing her husband to send Humaira and her younger sister, Tahira to school. The two sisters were the only children to go to school in that particular settlement. Whilst the sisters spent their time in school, their friends played in the streets throughout the day. As a typical first grader, Humaira initially believed that going to school was a punishment. However with time, she soon realized that she infact was the “privileged one”.

Her introspective mind and sensitive nature inevitably led her to feel troubled over the plight of the other children in her neighbourhood. She wanted all her friends to go to school as well but knew that financial constraints would probably never let this happen. Humaira however did not know the meaning of giving up and soon had a novel idea up her sleeve to redress this injustice. She would herself teach the children in the neighbourhood. The only problem was the dearth of stationary, copies and books.

Nothing could be too big of a problem for Humaira. She soon started asking her school friends to donate their old school books, copies and stationary, which she collected in a basket at the end of every class when the teachers were away. Soon Humaira’s home school was functional and being attended by the children of the area.

Although Humaira was actively working to elevate the condition of her own village, she had to face setbacks of her own as well. Her father wanted to pull her out of school when she was in grade eight and get her married. At that time Humaira’s mother begged her husband to let Humaira study further. The result of this plea was a resounding slap across Zainab bibi’s face. Despite physical and verbal abuse and the possibility of social boycott in her community, Zainab bibi continued to convince her husband, who eventually relented when Humaira promised that she would marry anyone deaf, dumb or blind without cavil if her father let her finish school.

As the population of children in her school grew, she persuaded other classmates and juniors at school to join in and help in this noble venture. In 2003 she established, “The Dream Foundation” which was aligned with the aims of this very school. The only problem was that the kitchen floor and the courtyard of her modest home were not spacious enough to accommodate the students. Despair settled in her heart and she realized that perhaps her school would not be able to sustain itself. It was at that time when one of her students encouraged her and Humaira rejuvenated by their faith started to look for solutions.  She decided to seek help from the ARM Youth Welfare Society running street schools in the adjacent poverty stricken neighbourhood of Lyari. When the organization visited Humaira’s school, they were pleasantly surprised and impressed. Convinced of Humaira’s sincerity and infected by her positivity and motivation the organization arranged financial support from the Rotary Club, and Humaira was able to rent a space in the neighbourhood that she affectionately named the. “The Dream Model Street School.”

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Things improved in her personal life as well. On a visit to her village in interior Sindh, she was informed that her uncle had purchased a plot of land. Being an inquisitive character, she convinced her uncle to show her the paperwork and map relating to the purchase. All it took was a cursory glance for her to realize that her uncle was being fraudulently given a smaller plot of land than what he had bargained for. When she brought this fact to her uncle’s attention, she was met with disdain and sarcasm- after all what is a woman supposed to know about these things which involve men. Undeterred she convinced her uncle to take her to the local land registry where she was proven right and the fraudulent transaction was exposed. At that moment, her father could not have been more proud as his daughter had proven herself to the same community which looked down upon her decision to study.

Meanwhile, news of Humaira’s endeavours reached the ears of a Shirkatgah, a nonprofit organization who were researching on women empowerment. They decided to document Humaira’s work.  This documentary,titled, ”A Small Dream” was launched on 28 March, 2009, in Lahore at the South Asia Free Media Association, with Humaira, Tahira and Zainab Bibi attending. It  was while watching this documentary itself that she realised what she had done and the impact it had in her community. She recalls watching the whole documentary with tears streaming down her face and in utter disbelief of what sheand her friends had achieved.

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As word spread and her documentary was aired on television, organizations Like Engro Vopak, Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), Shirkat Gah, Behbud Association and Family Planning Association of Pakistan started supporting The Dream Foundation and this support remains to-date.

In 2007, Humaira  as she says, “retired” from the school in order to earn a living and to be able to support her school and to try to pay some of the dedicated staff . She however remains as the President and is on the board of trustees of her trust. Her 19‐year old sister Tahira is now the principal. Humaira, since then has been offered a scholarship by the Lahore University of Management and Sciences, which she has declined to avail for now.

“If I leave now and abandon the children studying in my school, who will look after them?” she says matter of factly.

The Dream Model Street School currently has a staff of 22 teachers, aged between 13 and 24, who work for free and are active donors of the foundation itself. The school has by now imparted education to approximately two thousand students. Apart from regular studies, the school also provides computer classes, has a female literacy project, has an Islamic education class and conducts separate evening classes for children who work to earn a living in the day.

 

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Humaira dreams of making her school a long ‐lasting institution by constructing a proper school building that will remain even when she is gone. An empty plot of land is available, but the young teachers need Pakistani Rupees 2,800,000 to purchase it.

The session was almost over and almost all the children and mentors sitting in the TCF Sumar Goth campus had questions brimming within us. One of the mentors’ asked Humaira as to why she had chosen to do all this when she could have joined the status quo like many of her peers. Her answer sent shivers down our spine. She told us that she had seen her female relative who was suffering from a stomach ache die after she was injected with medicine and a syringe meant for horses. She also told us of her little cousin who died because of eating expired medicine. Humaira believes that these deaths took place because of illiteracy and lack of common sense and awareness which can only be erased through education.

We have much to learn from Humaira, who has done the unthinkable in her community through her courage, motivation and the simple will to bring about a change. Where we talk about the problems faced by our country while sitting in our luxurious drawing rooms, she has actually translated all those thoughts into action despite the uncountable problems that she faces and we do not. She is the change in her community. At this tender age, she has a vision for this country- a vision that we all share. This is the time for us to join hands with Humaira, step out of our pseudo intellectual drawing room discourse, and bring about that change. Let us ensure that Humaira’s small dream becomes a reality and that it is not in fact one Model Street School that gets saved, but several such schools are constructed so that every street of our country is a dream come true.

 

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Note:

You can find out about more about the Rahbar Program and the process to register as a volunteer here: http://www.thecitizensfoundation.org/docs/rahbar.pdf

To get linked with Ms. Bachal and help her in raising funds for her school, please write to:

Dream Foundation Trust, Muwach Goth Brohi Muhallah, Near Murshid Hospital, SUPARCO Road, Hub River Road,  Keamari Town, Karachi, Pakistan.

Email:  humaira-bachal@hotmail.com

Website: http://dreamfoundationtrust.weebly.com/index.html

To donate to the Dream Foundation Trust, please deposit donations in the following bank account:

DREAM Foundation Trust
A/c No. 09947100289003 
Habib Bank Limited
 Saeedabad Branch,
 Karachi

To see Humaira’s documentary, click here:  http://blip.tv/r4d/a-small-dream-2127432

 

Ghulam Sughra- I am Proud of you !


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While going through the newspapers today, i happened to glance upon the picture of a woman being given the International Woman of Courage Award by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama of the United States of America. The lady being awarded was wearing a light blue embroidered shalwar kameez with a red dupatta over her head. She looked Pakistani. A quick check and yes! She is a Pakistani and her name is Ghulam Sughra.

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How is it that i had never heard of Ghulam Sughra? This woman is getting an award conferring on her the title, a Woman of Courage. She is one of the ten people around the globe who have been chosen for this award. Clearly, she must have done a lot of courageous and exemplary things to be bestowed this honour. How is it that another country is honouring this woman and most of us in Pakistan have no clue about her identity? I blame no one but myself for such ignorance.

Do you want to know what Ghulam Sughra did to earn this award? Well, where do i start?

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Ghulam Sughra is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of a Non Governmental Organization (‘NGO’) known as the Marvi Rural Development Organization. This organization is focused on creating community savings funds and raising awareness of education, health, human rights, and social development issues. Theis NGO has its roots in her home village in Sindh, but has now expanded to several rural areas of Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan Provinces.

Unfortunately the catalyst for her activism was a sad story.  Sughra was forced into marriage in the tender age of 12 years. After six years of a bad marriage, Sughra became the first woman in her village to divorce her husband. The result was  as expected. She was suddenly a social outcast in her own village.

She tried to pick up the pieces of her life and started to attend school. However, whenever she ventured to do so, she was severely beaten by her brothers. Not a woman to give up hope, she continued to pursue her studies at home and went on to become her village’s first female high school graduate in a newly formed Girls Government School. Well, did you expect her to sit at home? No, she then became the first teacher at the first school for girls in her village.

She faced another challenge in this role as well unfortunately. Even though the girls school had been constructed but there were no girls that were being given the permission to come to school. Parents in the village were not motivated to send their daughters to school, owing to the poverty and the social norms in the village.

Sughra has been able to bring a slow and steady change in the perspective of local rural villagers of this country through her NGO. After several years of her work, and especially since she has faced hardship, taboos and seen financial difficulties herself, she is convinced that the quality of life of women in this country will not improve unless issues such as building of good infrastructure such as roads and amenities such as water supply, electricity and compulsory education in the shape of well maintained schools are not provided.

She knows that education is essential to break taboos and for progress. She has been religiously encouraging young girls to go to school and become educated. She feels that it is only education that will empower girls to battle and remove the economic and social barriers to their education.

Sughra has also implemented income generating projects and secured sources of credit so that women living in  the rural areas of Pakistan can achieve the role of a “bread earner” as well, and therefore have have a say in the decision to send their daughters to school, and also prove that their role is complimentary to  the domestic duties they perform at home.

Sughra is a woman we should look up to. She is an asset to our society. We should be ashamed to not have brought her into the limelight and give her the support and acknowledgement she so deserves.

Ghulam Sughra, i am proud of you and Thank You for proving a Pakistani woman’s worth.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (5th L) pose for photographs with the International Women of Courage Awards winners (L-R) Bebela publisher and journalist Henriette Ekwe Ebongo of Cameroon, Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center Director Guo Jianmei of China, Hungary Member of Parliament Agnes Osztolykan, Mizan Law Group for Human Rights Executive Director Eva Abu Halaweh of Jordan, Kyrgyz Republic President Roza Otunbayeva, Deputy Attorney General for Special Investigations against Organized Crime Marisela Morales Ibañez of Mexico, Marvi Rural Development Organization Founder and CEO Ghulam Sughra of Pakistan and Herat Province Prosecutor General Maria Bashir of Afghanistan at the Department of State March 8, 2011 in Washington, DC. The award were given on the 100th anniversary of International Womens’ Day to women recognized for their “courage and leadership as they fight for social justice, human rights and the advancement of women.”